Garden Update: Fall Plant Picks

September 27, 2013 — 1 Comment


I have been busy in the garden the last couple of weeks. The cooler weather called to me and I decided to it was time to tackle my weed infested gardens and add a few new plants. It was the Scott Arboretum Plant Sale last weekend, so it was a good excuse to pick up a few plants. I also decided it was time to plant the Southern Magnolia near the driveway, which I have been thinking about for the past couple of years. Unfortunately the plant sale wasn’t going to have any so I headed over to Mostardis. Of course while I was there I picked up a couple of extra friends for the garden. I still have a good bit of work in the front garden (in front of the bay window), but I have at least started edging and weeding.

shadeplanter1As I mature as a gardener, I am starting to become much more selective about the plants that I buy. I am much more interested in foliage and creating a patchwork of beautiful patterns and colors, and much less concerned with the flowers. At the same time I am still learning about properly placing plants. I lost quite a few perennials to the wet spring and summer. So my goal moving forward is to not just look at sun verses shade but also look closely at the type of moisture requirements. I also now have a much better idea of how each of my planting beds functions. I am also trying to buy native plants where possible. I don’t think I would ever go to a completely native garden, but seeing how the birds and bugs love our garden, it has inspired me to give them a good habitat.


One planting bed that has changed over the years in this small bed adjacent to our driveway and the property behind us. Originally there were terrible prickly overgrown evergreen shrubs here. I pulled those out years ago and started with mostly annuals. The bed is pretty dry and gets a fair amount of wind from the adjacent street. Although this bed isn’t in our line of sight most of the time, it can be seen from some angles and if we ever put an addition on the house, it will be visible along with the van that parks there and street beyond. For the shorter term I planted some Rose of Sharron along the fence to provide a quick screen. However these aren’t evergreen and they self-seed way more than I would like. The only good thing about them is that they have a deep tap root so they don’t require watering. After contemplating multiple plants including traditional evergreens, I decided that a southern magnolia would be perfect, except that the traditional varieties are way too big!


I have always thought that Southern Magnolias are quite beautiful, but until recently hadn’t really thought of them as suitable for my yard. Fortunately there are a couple of smaller varieties that are suitable for our Zone 6B/7A climate. I had originally searched for a ‘Little Gem’ but one of the local nurseries had ‘Kay Parris’ (which is related to little gem) in stock in a suitable size (i.e. not tiny but could still fit in the car) so I took the plunge and planted it over the weekend. This one should stay in a suitable size with lower branches to be the perfect year around screen. From what I have been told, they are pretty sturdy trees and good in full to part sun and doesn’t mind dry soil. Yes!  And did I mention it should have beautiful white fragrant flowers in the spring? I have filled in the rest of the bed with some of the perennials that survived the weeds including some columbine, grasses and ice plants. I also added some Russian Sage that I got on clearance at Home Depot.


One surprise to me was how quickly my side bed has changed from full sun to part shade with the addition of the river birches. I guess it shouldn’t really be a surprise, but in the last year my full sun plants have really suffered. In the spring they start out strong but by midsummer a lot of my plants that normally thrive looked pretty sad. I see some lots of transplanting in my future! This bed is also quite wet during heavy rain. The one new plant I picked up for this bed is Eupatorium serotinum late flowering thoroughwort. This beauty is about 4′ tall and has white flowers in the fall. It is another native which the bees seem to quite like. It likes wet soil and is suppose to do well in full sun to part shade.

scutellaria incana

Another new plant I picked up is Scutellaria incana, hoary skullcap. It is another native that get blue flowers. It prefers dry soil and sun to part shade. I planted these beauties near by bamboo patch.


 Finally I picked this euphorbia up on clearance at a local nursery. I have had mixed luck with spurge. I managed to kill several beautiful purple ones over the summer. They are not particularly fussy about light requirements but they don’t like to get too wet. So my sideyard was not a good spot. This variety Cushion Spurge ‘First Blush’ is petite and pretty. It gets yellow flowers in the spring but I am smitten wit the green and white leaves with reddish edges. These will be planted in full sun in a much drier spot in the front yard. Hopefully they will do well there!

What have you been planting lately and what are on your plant list?

1 Comment

One response to Garden Update: Fall Plant Picks

  1. We’re currently in the business of taking plants OUT, not putting them in. Specifically, the sassafras in our side yard that’s completely out of control. We’re getting it all ground out and graded (a process Jon calls “The Sassafrassacre”) but in the spring I’ll be in the market for a few larger shrubs/trees that can provide some screening from street noise and neighbors, but will allow a breeze to come through. I’d LOVE a Southern Magnolia, but I’m nervous about maintenance and not being able to grow anything under it so we’ll have a weird “dead zone.” A smaller variety might do nicely, though, so I’ll be curious to see how your Parris does!

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